By Mike Miazga How much has Northern Lights founder and club director Curt Glessmann meant to the girls’ juniors game? What better person to ask than longtime sport coaching great and current Lights 15s coach Walt Weaver, who along with Glen Lietzke (currently with Austin Juniors) started the precursor to Northern Lights (North Country Juniors). Glessmann later bought North Country from the region and renamed it Northern Lights. “Curt is in the top 1 percent in the world in terms of logistics, business workings and organization,” Weaver says. “He’s developed a well-oiled machine. For starters, the building we’re in allowed him to be different than anybody else. We have our own facility and we’re able to practice there and hold events there and generate income to help support the facility. People are attracted to that. You also have to do a phenomenal job with other things such as who to get to coach and the kind of organization skills needed to run a club. I don’t think there is another organization in the country that does what Cut does for volleyball.” Weaver says it’s the way Glesmann, who survived a major heart-attack incident in 2011, goes the extra mile that sets him apart. Take the clubs’ year-end banquet for instance.
“That banquet could be held in Hollywood,” Weaver says. “It’s unbelievable. He puts hundreds of hours into a slide show. Every kid in the club, which is a number around 380 or 390, is in there in some way in that slide show. They have these huge Jumbotron screens and the banquet is held at the convention center (Minneapolis). It’s a gigantic white-linen tablecloth dinner that has thousands of people at it. When I came back to coach when my daughter was 16, I went to that banquet and sat there in shock. I couldn’t believe what he had done. He leaves no stone unturned.” Weaver notes Glesmann takes 16s and 18s teams on overseas trips each year. “That’s part of their fee to play,” he says. “We go to all these qualifiers and nationals and to Orlando (AAU nationals). Curt is the godfather of volleyball in this state. Kids gravitate to the program because of it. Kids who play for Northern Lights are well-taken care of, they play in the top facility in the country and it’s all Curt’s doing. He also has good people around him and a great partner in Adam (fellow director Beamer), who does a great job as well.” Weaver says Glesmann (also instrumental in the implementation of computerized score-tracking systems now commonplace at major club tournaments) is the exact opposite of the CEO of a large corporation.
“For many years he knew the name of every kid in the club and would run at least one of each teams’ practices every year,” he says. “He attends graduations. He’s given his life to this aspect and has touched the lives of thousands of girls who have played volleyball.” Weaver adds Glesmann also is well-known for the personal letters he has written over the years to seniors leaving the club. “They aren’t supposed to open the letter until they are 30,” Weaver says. “He would write what he thought they would be doing when they turned 30. It’s what the guy does and it’s why so many girls have played here. The history and tradition has created a special kind of place.” Fellow Northern Lights coach Andy Guggisberg labels Glesmann “a visionary.” “He’s the face of juniors volleyball in Minnesota,” he says. “He cares about the kids and he cares about the Northern Lights name. He doesn’t care about national championships. He loves it because of the look on the girls’ faces when they win it all. He’s all about the kids having a great experience. It’s his No. 1 priority. When you take care of your clientele, good things will happen.” Guggisberg is correct. It’s not about the wins and losses for Glesmann. “I look back and see all the kids who have gone through the program or played in the qualifier,” Glesmann says. “I look at all the kids and their parents being able to have quality family time together. I know we’ve impacted hundreds and thousands of lives over the years. Parents have told me the club provides way more than volleyball. Their daughters are with a good group of people learning skills other than volleyball. They are learning very important life skills that will help them. The parents aren’t worried about the cost. Kids have been able to travel around the world and get a different perspective on things. I’m proud of all the good club volleyball has done.”